Pure

pure-photomontage

Image © Cinnamon Curtis 2016

 

by  Ever Dundas October 11, 2016

2 April 1977

Goddamn. Those sonsofbitches have sure messed up my brain. I feel myself slipping away each time I go in. I forget. Hours and days and weeks are blank. It only feels like seconds. Write it down, I said to myself. Write it down, spit it out. That’ll do it, Frankie. That’ll sure do it. It’ll keep you on track. Keep you from drowning in the electric light. Remember who you are, Frankie. Remember where you came from. Remember your love, your passion.
They’re hollowing me out. Solitude and silence, drugs and electric light. I don’t know how long I was gone this time. When I came back, Martha said she had bet on them having gone and cut out my brain. She looked for scars, pawing at my head like she was searching for treasure. I guess she
was looking for treasure, seeing as she lost a week’s cigarettes. She punched me in the face and got solitary. I tried to tell her. I tried to tell her she was kinda right. I wasn’t all there anymore. I was losing myself. I’m losing. So, I’m writing. And remembering all I can in-between the electric light. Keep on good behaviour, get privileges. I get a real buzz from the cigarettes. They fire me, and I remember. I remember fucking like wildcats. I remember sitting naked on the windowsill, staring over at Johnny spread on the bed. A cigarette dangling from our lips and I took in his perfect body and I knew I would die without him. I knew it.

 

19 May 1955

I watch the matinee every day. On an old battered up thing in the communal, and everyone knows I watch my matinee every day. Grant, Hepburn, Bacall, Bogart. They were stars. They were goddamn stars. Not like now, and not like here. We can’t do films here like they do in Hollywood. Liz Taylor, and Montgomery Clift. They sure are goddamn stars.

 

3 May 1979

Same routine. Same shit everyday. I was helping Nellie eat. C’mon, Nellie, you gotta eat something. I would sit there until she’d gone and ate it all, but it wouldn’t do no good. Next thing she’d be seeing giant insects on the wall and vomiting it all up. Goddamn, Nellie. Goddamn. You’re gonna waste away to nothing. Maybe that’s what I want, she said, puke dripping from her chin. Maybe I wanna waste away. I don’t deserve anything else. Don’t gimme that shit, I said. I can’t stand that fucking pathetic self-hate bullshit. I killed Johnny, she said, and I went and leaned down and whispered, sweetheart, it wasn’t you who done killed Johnny. It wasn’t you, honeybean. You don’t gotta worry about a thing. And she’d just sit there, rocking. Some days I’d wanna hug her and make it all OK. Some days I’d wanna stab her in the face with her own puke-covered fork.

 

1979

I think it’s 1979. Martha told me it was, but she lies, so maybe it isn’t. Sometimes, though, she doesn’t lie. Just to fuck with me.

 

16 October 1966 18 June 1980

Dirk Bogarde, Eliza says. Dirk fucking Bogarde. No way, I say, he’s no star. They don’t make em here like they do in Hollywood. Now, Montgomery Clift, there’s a star, but she just turns around and says, “He’s OK. He was good in A Place In The Sun.” But I don’t watch that. I don’t watch that film. And I don’t watch Dirk Bogarde. He’s no star.

It’s not October. Jean says it’s June, but I don’t know if it’s true. Maybe it’s true. Jean doesn’t lie so much as the others. I come out and I don’t know who I am, or where I am, or what fucking year it is. 16 October 1966 they said. I sometimes don’t understand. I write it in my diary and think I must have written it wrong last time. Sometimes I really do think I’m travelling back in time. Maybe I want to believe it. 1966 and I’d be with Johnny. Where else would I want to be? I loved him even when he was dead and rotting. I loved him so much I let his maggots eat my arm. We were becoming each other. We were collapsing in on each other. Before they came for me.

 

29 August 1980

Most guys were scared of me. Back then, not many girls had muscles and tattoos and owned their own shit-hot car. I was crazy, they said. She’s a wild thing, they said. You’re my wild thing, he said. Oh yeah, baby? I don’t belong to nobody. He winked at me, and next thing I know there was no before Johnny. I didn’t exist then. I barely exist now. We’d fuck like wildcats. We’d play with knives and wake up covered in blood. I was Johnny. Johnny was Frankie. Nothing else existed. Nothing else existed.

                                                                                                                                              Nothing else

                                                                                                                                      existed.

Nothing else existed. Nothing else existed.

 
 

                                           Nothing else existed.

 

2046 or 1899

It was Eliza who told me it was 2046, but I know she’s lying because I know that’s the future. Eliza, I said, if you’re gonna lie to me, you gotta pick a credible goddamn year. That’s what I said. She just pouted and said fine, it’s 1899. I didn’t bother with her. I was too busy watching Nellie. It was the same morning routine, except Nellie didn’t throw up this time. She sat and just fucking masticated. I watched her. What are you doing, I said. I’m chewing every mouthful 40 times, she says. I got through 20 cigarettes just watching the muscles undulate beneath her skin, watching the way her jaw moved. I once broke Johnny’s jaw, I said. We were wildcats, I said. She just chewed, and I flicked the ash onto her food to see if she would chew that too, and she did.

 

17 July 1978

Frankie, says Martha. Your film’s on. I hate Mae West, I said. They all watched it. They all gathered round, hunched up, squeezed in. I heard them sing that song.

 

16 October 1966

Where are you? In bed.

What place is this? Home.

What day is this? 16 October.

What year is this? 1966.

How old are you? Nineteen.

What year is your birthday? 1966. What year is your birthday? 1966.

Who is prime minister? Who gives a goddamn?

 

14 September 1985

I loved them more than I’ve loved anyone in my life, and I’m supposed to survive this. I remember when we met her, I remember us both falling like Alice down the goddamn rabbit hole. Frankie, she said, you’re the most beautiful goddamn thing I’ve ever seen. Nellie, I said, do you know who I am? Do you know I’m a wild thing? You can’t headfuck a goddamn wild thing. She just winked at me, and next thing I know there was no before. There was no past, just the impossible present stretching out, the constant intolerable plateau of hating the two people I love the most.

I told Johnny I just wanted to disappear into his arms. Just curl up and the whole world is gone. It’s just Johnny and I. Just the warmth of his arms, and his breath on my skin. Sure, he said. Sure, honey. It’s just us. Always us.

And her.

 

25 May 1979

They found me just as the maggots had started to burrow their way into my arm. I didn’t feel a thing. I was dehydrated, starving. Emaciated, I couldn’t walk. They took off my arm. Destroyed, infected. They force-fed me through a tube. Why bother? Why revive me, when they wanted me dead? But they wanted to kill me themselves. Slowly. The justice system doesn’t like when you punish yourself. They don’t understand it. You punish yourself, you’re crazy. That man in court, with the sharp suit and the glistening moustache, he said there should be a death sentence for people like me. But the defence was craziness. Not my defence. I didn’t get to choose. I got up and said I killed him in cold blood. I got up and said it was premeditated. I got up and said “I deserve to die.” And they said, “She’s crazy.” Well, I’ll tell you this, I wasn’t then, but I sure am now. I sure am.

 

1966

Where are you? Hell.

What place is this? Nuthouse.

What day is this? 16 October.

What year is this? 1966.

How old are you? Nineteen.

What year is your birthday? 1966. What year is your birthday? 1966.

Who is prime minister? Jane Fucking Fonda.

 

17 November 1980

I don’t need nobody, baby. And I’m born again. She was there when he died. She saw everything. And now she sees insects on the wall. I wanted to destroy her. And here she is, broken. I feed her soup, and tell her stories, and give her my last cigarette. And I hate her. This broken girl. I’ll always hate her.

 

14 May 1981

I found this. I thought it was from someone who was here before me maybe. I read it, and felt sad. But I thought it was someone else. Until they called on me, saying my name. Frankie, they’d say, you sure are gone this time. You sure are gone. They’d peer in on me, telling me I had dead eyes. I’ll bet you a week’s cigarettes she doesn’t ever remember who the fuck she is this time round. Fucking dead eyes. Shit. No way she’s coming back this time. I came back, though. It just took longer, I think. From the dates, some of the dates, it looks like it took longer this time. It seems to take longer but sometimes I can’t tell when they’re messing with my head and I’m going back in time.

                                                                                                                                      What year is it, Frankie? What

Year?

                                                              What year is it, Frankie?

                                                                                                  What year

                       is it?

 
 
 

April

Sweetheart, she said. It wasn’t you who done killed Johnny. Honeybean, she said, you don’t gotta worry about a goddamn thing.

I thought it was April. Turns out it was June.

 

1966

Where are you? It’s 1966 and it’s all over. I can see him lying there, the sweat rolling down his body. I lick his arm, and pull gently at the hairs on his chest. The hairs are matted with sweat and blood. I circle around the hole with my finger, then I push in, feeling inside him. I collapse in on him. I am Johnny and Johnny is me. What place is this? Our apartment. Enclosed. Just the two of us. And her. What day is this? 16 October. Always 16 October, the beginning and the end of us. What year is this? 1966. How old are you? Nineteen. I’m in my shit-hot car. I don’t need nobody, baby, and I’m in his arms, we’re in his apartment, our apartment, forever and always, fucking like wildcats. The sweat is dripping from his body, and I feel inside him, his mouth opens, his eyes close and he pulls my head back. What year is your birthday? 1966. Always the beginning and the end of us. What year is your birthday? 1966. The two of us. Enclosed. Who is prime minister? I don’t need nobody, baby. And he winks at me, the world collapsing in. Nothing else exists for me.

 

3 June 1986

Frankie, Martha says, you’re not in some Hollywood film, you’re not Lauren Fucking Bacall. That’s what she said to me. Jesus, I said, can’t a gal get any peace round here? No one round here says gal, Frankie. You’re not bloody Hollywood, you’re not some yank. I can be whoever I want to be, I said. I can be whoever I goddamn please. Yeah, and don’t we know it, she says. Goddamn that Martha. She just likes messin with me after I went and came back from the electric lights.

What year is it, Frankie? What year is it? Goddamn that Martha.

 

15 October 1980

I can write anything. Maybe I can just write anything. Maybe I don’t want to be who I am anymore. What’s the point? What’s the point in being the Frankie who killed Johnny and let the maggots eat her arm. That’s sick, they said. You’re sick, said those sonsofbitches who done worse than me and for nothing. Some of those crazies just tortured and killed for fun, and I’m sick they say. I wont let them tell me I’m sick. I’ll be someone else, who has gone and been put here by mistake. I’ll be pure and white as those electric lights. Goddamn sonsofbitches can’t tell me who I am, all sick and time-travelling and laughing at me back in 1966. I’ll be pure and clean and good.

 

15 October 1980

You are pure and clean and good. You’re in here by mistake. I shouldn’t be here. You’re good, not like those sick murdering sonsofbitches murderers. I was in love with Johnny, and we were like wildcats the sweetest lovebirds. It was the sweetest love. We were so in love. It was a good love, a pure love. We were married in a church with a preacher and a choir and our families were so goddamn happy for us.

 

27 November 1980

I’m so fucking full of goddamn fucking shit.

Day Month Year

Where are you?

What place is this?

What day is this?

What year is this?

How old are you?

What year is your birthday? What year is your birthday?

Who is prime minister?

 

14 July 1981

I’ve borrowed Eliza’s pencil. They won’t let me have much of anything of my own since I gouged my cheek with my pen. Tore right down from the top of my cheekbone to the side of my lip. Solitary, electric lights, and I don’t know what fucking year it is. They tell me it’s 1966, but I tell myself it’s bullshit, they’re fucking with me. I don’t know what year it is. But what does it matter? Is it months or years since? Eliza was telling me its 2046. Eliza, I said, if you’re gonna lie to me you gotta pick a credible goddamn year. That’s what I said to her, and she just walks off all put out. I don’t remember much anymore. It took me a while to come back, a real long while Martha said. She got a whole months supply of cigarettes betting I wouldn’t come back. And you didn’t, she said. You didn’t come back for months. You have to fucking ruin everything, she said. But I didn’t ruin much of anything. She stubbed her cigarette out on Eliza for wanting them back. Eliza whined to the nurse and got goddamn electric lights for self-harming. And here I am again. Will I ever go away for good? Sometimes I’d just like to forget for good. It always comes back in fragments, stilted pictureshows, broken reels, spliced together. It always comes back. They said I was a nightmare with the purity shit. All high and mighty ladidadada, I am pure, I am good, what a prissy pain in the ass you were, they said. Then you gouged your face. That was fucking mental. You’re sick, Frankie. Doing that to yourself. You’re sick. Say the goddamn murderers who murdered just for fun. You’re sick, they say. Well, I didn’t kill for fun, I said. No, Frankie, we know. You killed for love. Your good, pure, love. We all know, Frankie. We all know your stories.

 

20 July 1981

I’m gonna go. I bet Martha a fucking year’s supply of goddamn buzzing cigarettes that I’m gonna go this time for good.

 

__________

 

Pure was first published in the print only anthology New Writing Scotland 30 in July 2012.

Ever Dundas: I’m a writer specialising in the weird and macabre, with Queer Theory (problematizing the ‘normal’) forming the backbone of my work. I gained a Creative Writing Masters with Distinction in 2011, and I have a First Class Degree in Psychology and Sociology. My first novel, Goblin, will be published by Freight in 2017.

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